The largest free-trade in the world, spanning the African continent with its 1.2 billion people, has come into effect, aiming to eradicate tariffs and create single market for a potential market worth $2.5 trillion.
The African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) comes into effect on 30 May 2019, having been signed by 52 of the AU's 55-member states. Significantly, Nigeria, the continent's largest economy, has not signed the agreement due to pressure from its manufacturer and labour industries.
Calling it a "historic milestone," African Union (AU) commissioner for trade and industry Albert Muchanga tweetedthat its launch was a "triumph of bold, pragmatic and continent-wide commitment to economic integration".
He says the market will formally launch on 7 July 2019 and will "begin the journey of transformation to secure inclusive prosperity".
Muchanga and his team were congratulatedby AU Chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat for "their relentless work to ensure the entry into force of AfCFTA in a record 18 months, ushering in the world 's largest trading market of 1,2 billion people with a combined GDP of $2,5 trillion. Today is a historical win for the #AfricaWeWant."
The AU hopes the free-trade zone will bring about economic integration and investment in Africa, from within Africa. By eliminating tariffs, the AU foresees a boost in intra-continental trade by 60% within the first three years – a far cry from the current 16%.